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Girls & Women

1 in 5 UK Parliament Staff Have Been Sexually Harassed in the Past Year

Nearly 20% of people who work in the UK Parliament have experienced sexual harassment in just the past 12 months, according to a survey carried out by a group of cross-party MPs. 

The survey was launched as sexual harassment rocketed into the limelight through the #MeToo campaign, with a number of high profile MPs embroiled in the scandal.

And the group of MPs also made a number of recommendations for how sexual harassment can be stamped out in the British Parliament once and for all. 

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“This is a big day for Parliament and our politics,” said Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, unveiling the report on Thursday. “The new independent procedure will demonstrate that we want to be the best parliament in the world when it comes to treating everyone who works here with dignity and respect.” 

She added: “This is a major step in bringing about the culture change that Parliament needs.” 

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The report, which was leaked to the Independent before it was made public, brought to light the true extent of harassment and bulling in Parliament. 

Read more: 'Locker Room Culture' Must Stop, Scotland's Tory Leader Says as Westminster Sex Scandal Sees Its First Casualty

It further revealed that, of the 1,377 staff, MPs, and peers who responded — around 17% of the Westminster workforce, according to the BBC — some 39% had experienced bulling and harassment in the past 12 months. 

Of those who had experienced bullying or harassment, 45% were female, and 35% were male. 

The report said it was “unacceptable” that such “inappropriate behaviours” have taken place across the “parliamentary community.”

Party leaders are now looking for ways to end the culture of abuse, and the proposals made in the report will be debated by MPs later this month. 

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One of the expected changes is the introduction of a new HR system for the staff of MPs. Currently these staff are directly employed by MPs, which makes it difficult for these staffers to report complaints without it having a negative effect on them. 

Another recommendation made by the report is to consider tougher sanctions against those who have behaved inappropriately — including suspension, or expulsion. There would also be training for MPs and staff around better employment practices.

A source close to the MP group that produced the report told the Independent: “What is critically important for whether [new measures] succeed or not is that it changes culture, and people who work in Parliament feel that they are able to come forward without risking their future careers.” 

Read more: Make 'Upskirting' Illegal and Misogyny a Hate Crime, Urges UK Report

Allegations of sexual misconduct came to light in October and November last year, with Scotland’s Conservative leader Ruth Davidson saying the “dam has broken” on the problem. 

Dozens of accusations and revelations were levelled at politicians from all parties, and all areas of British politics. 

“These overwhelmingly male-dominoted professions, where the ‘boys own’ locker room culture has prevailed and it’s all been a bit of a laugh, has got to stop,” said Davidson, in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

The allegations led to the resignation of defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon, as well as investigations into several high-profile MPs. Some of these investigations are still ongoing. 

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